From Malaya Business Insight (Jun 20): AFP starts preparing for Marawi rehab
THE Armed Forces has started deploying engineering personnel and equipment to Marawi City in preparation for rehabilitation of areas devastated by the ongoing armed conflict with members of the terrorist Maute Group, the military said yesterday.
The Armed Forces still has not set a deadline for ending the conflict which has been going on for almost a month now.
AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the deployment of the engineering personnel and assets was based on a directive issued by Armed Forces chief Gen. Eduardo Año, and the rehabilitation of the city will be pursued by the military in collaboration with government agencies.
He said rehabilitation work will start when the city is completely cleared of Maute members.
“They are preparing already. In fact, there are already engineering personnel in the area... They are slowly building up (personnel and assets)... They are readying for the rehab,” said Padilla.
Padilla could not immediately say the extent of rehabilitation work needed to be done. “I have no estimate because those who are doing the estimate cannot go in yet because of the firefight.”
Asked when the conflict will end, Padilla said: “We’re not providing any timelines, knowing the complexity of the environment but we will do our best to expedite it... We are doing our best to expedite the liberation of Marawi at the soonest time possible,” said Padilla.
“We’re getting nearer each day... We’re getting closer to totally liberating Marawi because we are continually are working to degrade the capability of the enemy to hold on to their spaces and at the same time sustain their fight,” he also said.
President Duterte said a P20-billion rehabilitation plan is being finalized for conflict-affected areas like Marawi.
He also apologized to Marawi City residents, particularly those displaced by the fighting, and explained to them he had to impose martial law in the whole of Mindanao because the Maute is already destroying their city.
“I will help you, I will rehabilitate Marawi, it will be a beautiful city again,” he said during a visit to displaced families now staying at an evacuation center in Iligan City.
“I would like to say to the Maranao people that I am very, very, very sorry na nangyari ito sa atin. Sana kung madaling panahon, you will find a new heart to forgive my soldiers, ang gobyerno, pati ako for declaring martial law. (I would like to say to the Maranao people that I am very, very, very sorry that this happened to us. I hope in the near future, you will find a new heart to forgive my soldiers, the government, even me for declaring martial law),” he also said.
“Wala akong choice, sinisira na ang Marawi. I have to drive them out. But I am very sorry (I have no choice, they are destroying Marawi. I have to drive them out),” he added
Duterte placed Mindanao under martial law for 60 days on May 23 and suspended the writ of habeas corpus following an attack by the Maute Group which had pledged allegiance to the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria.
Padilla could not immediately say the number of engineering personnel and assets already in the city. He said the military is planning to send at least two engineering battalions for the rehabilitation phase.
“The AFP chief of staff has directed the mobilization of engineering units in preparation for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and rebuilding of Marawi as soon as the conflict is over,” said Padilla.
On Monday, the Navy’s BRP Davao del Sur arrived at the Iligan City port, carrying relief goods and supplies for Marawi City, said Navy spokesman Capt. Lued Lincuna.
Lincuna said the ship was loaded with five tons of relief goods, AFP mobile kitchen, heavy equipment for the rehabilitation of Marawi City, and “other items to support our troops.”
Zia Alonto Adiong, a member of the ARMM regional assembly representing the first district of Lanao del Sur, said military operations in the city were continuing yesterday.
“As of now, (the military) can’t still give an actual date,” said Adiong when asked when the conflict will end.
“But they are hoping that it will be over the soonest possible time because our recovery plan is dependent on this. We cannot proceed (with the rehabilitation) while the fighting are still ongoing,” said Adiong.
‘MASSIVE’ REHAB WORK
Adiong said they have already laid out rehabilitation plan for Marawi. He said coordination has been made with the United Nations Development Program.
“It (rehabilitation) is going to be massive because of the damage caused by air strikes and bombardment on both civilian and government properties. The damage is indeed massive,” he said.
The fighting has so far resulted in the death of 258 Maute members, 65 soldiers and policemen and 26 civilians.
Padilla said 16 high-rise buildings occupied by Maute members have been recovered by government soldiers in the past days and “two (are) in progress.” He could not say how many buildings are still due for clearing.
“Enemy resistance continues to wane and the enemy-held areas continue to diminish as government security forces press its advance... Troops continue to get deeper into once enemy-held positions,” said Padilla.
Padilla said the conflict remains confined in four barangays. He said the Maute Group’s use of snipers, improvised bombs, and rocket propelled grenades from the their remaining vantage positions “still remain a challenge.”
The Australian Embassy in Manila said Australia will provide $920,000 in humanitarian assistance to displaced civilians.
It will also provide some 500 tons of rice through the World Food Program to help feed 60,000 children over the next three months.
“Our support includes the provision of tarpaulins, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and water and sanitation kits through the Philippine Red Cross to assist 1,000 displaced families,” said foreign minister Julie Bishop. “This assistance is in addition to the package of support for the peace process and education in Mindanao that I announced when I visited in March 2017,” she added.
The Australian government is also providing hygiene items, torches and whistles for protection, sanitary supplies and clothes as well as clean birthing kits through the United Nations Population Fund, to assist over 6,400 women and girls affected by the fighting.
Fighting was intense early yesterday as security forces made a push to drive the militants, entrenched in Marawi’s commercial district, south towards a lake on the edge of the city.
Planes flew overhead dropping bombs while on the ground, automatic gunfire was sustained with occasional blasts from artillery. Armored vehicles fired volleys of shells while the militants responded with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades.
Fighting later died down as heavy rain fell but resumed by evening.
Military sources said troops were attacking the militants from three sides and trying to box them towards the lake.
“We’re gaining ground and we’re expanding our vantage positions,” said Lt. Col. Jo-Ar Herrera, another military spokesman, although he declined to comment on specifics.
“We are moving towards the center of gravity,” he added, referring to the militants’ command and communications center.
An army corporal near the front line told Reuters soldiers were tagging houses and buildings that had been cleared.
“We still have to clear more than 1,000 structures,” he said, adding infantry units were left behind at “cleared” areas to prevent militants from recapturing lost ground.